Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Goal

December is less than four hours away and so the November numbers are final.

51.43 km and almost all by bike. My goal was 60 km which would have been easy if not for my extended stay in Berlin and the pests I've been dealing with. I'm gutted I didn't make the goal because it is easy to make the numbers by bike!

I will go from there and pledge 100 km for December! That's on average 3.2 km per day. If I bike to work that's 20 km in one day so I would only need to do that five times to fulfill my goal.

The main challenge will be to figure out how to exercise Bella well enough now that I know I will be starting daytime work next Monday. Better use the next two days and the weekend well to get a good headstart!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dog Culture: Europe vs Iceland

Monday is here and I had to stay at home with baby Magnus as he was pulling his ears like crazy last night. Today he seems a lot better so I'm crossing my fingers that he may be fit for daycare tomorrow. If not I have a nightshift so I will at least be able to go to work. My fiancé is having meetings all week, his PhD instructor is in Iceland this week to work with him.

Home Sick
Bella and Magnus taking a look at a box of sweets. 

I finally got around to uploading two photos from Berlin. Not because they are of superior quality but rather as they are dog-themed. Living in Reykjavik, Iceland, I am always a little sad returning back from a trip to abroad. In Copenhagen and Stockholm this summer and now in Berlin, I always see such a mature dog culture in the cities.
I say mature because the dog culture in Iceland consists of bans and more bans. We have leash laws which do make sense. It isn't so long since dogs were prohibited in Reykjavik city because of diseases. Today that has changed but there is still a really restrictive list of rules to go by if you get a dog. In short, they are not wanted anywhere. You can walk a leashed dog in most places, except the main walking streets in the city. There are a handful of locations within the city that allow dogs to be off leash. Not in malls, not in stores, not in public transport. If you own an apartment rather than your own house, you need 2/3rds of your neighbours to agree that you can own a specific dog. Yes, they must agree before you get the dog. Less than a year ago you needed 100% of all the other apartment owners to agree, nevermind if it's for no reason other than they don't like you or if the owner of a single apartment in the building happens to be a bank (they never give permission as a standard procedure).

The difference between Icelandic dogs and dogs I have seen in other European cities is vast. Icelandic pet dogs are neurotic and run to sniff whatever passerby they meet. Barking is frequent, many bark at both people and other dogs. They pull their leashes a lot and are generally overexcited.

And why wouldn't they be? They live pretty isolated lives within the walls of their homes. They can't be taken by foot to the stores, it's not allowed to take them in and it's not allowed to leave them tied outside. Of course it's also a liability issue as many Icelandic people think dogs can be approached and petted wherever, whenever.
Another factor is that Iceland has become very car friendly as opposed to the frequent use of public transport in many large European cities. So either dogs go for a leashed walk in their neighbourhood or are driven to some place where they can be let loose, usually that means going somewhere outside the city where no one is.

It's a very big contrast to the dogs I met in Berlin. I met a few in the trains, I saw many in shops and they were also in parks or on the streets. Many were on leashes and some were off leash. I was impressed that most people didn't seem to care there was a dog there and didn't approach them. The dogs were calm, even when meeting other dogs. They were close to their owners and paid attention to what was coming. I didn't see a single neurotic looking dog during my 7 days there and we saw a lot of dogs in public. Below is a picture I took inside an expensive mall in the basement where there was a gourmet food shop. No fuss, no excitement, just a calm dog waiting for his owner.

Dog in LaFayette

Another thing I noticed was how much fewer pedigree dogs I saw than here in Iceland. No Border Collie types. I'm actually not sure why they are so common in Iceland, they make horrible pets if you consider the fact that over 75% of all dogs I see being rehomed are Border Collie mixes with the most common description being "needs a country home".

I think the two gentlemen below summon my experience of European city-dogs:

KaDeWe General

Maybe someday Iceland will stop thinking of dogs as feral creatures that ought to live in the countryside. I often think about what I, as a dog owner, could do to move in that direction apart from the obvious responsible dog ownership I try to practice. Maybe someday I'll find the answer to the question.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sick Sick Sick

My household has been down with all kinds of pests since last Wednesday. I thought I was getting better but no, I had to stay at home from work today due to a really bad sore throat that cropped up yesterday. My son had it the worst, his sore throat turned into an infection and on top of that infection he got an ear infection.

I feel really bad for Bella. She's being a good sport but now she's starting to need her exercise. Yesterday I used the opportunity while giftwrapping two Christmas presents (I'm early this year!) and made her help me clean up in the living room. She's actually really good at it. I really ought to find out how to make her drop items into a container. I confess I haven't done it before because I can't decide what kind of a container I want to use for the training. Maybe it's an excuse to be lazy?

On Thursday we missed Obedience class and today we will miss Agility. I'm gutted! I really looked forward to both.

I have a big change coming up at work this month. I have been asked to be in the school unit from December until March to begin with. That means I will drop the shifts during that timeframe. Weekends off and more family friendly work hours.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back from Berlin

I went to Berlin for a long weekend on 11th November, only to miss my flight and me and my fiancé ended up staying there for a whole week.

Things have been hectic since then, a sick baby waiting and getting our bikes winter-ready. Oh, and Bella now refuses to eat her food. She's pretty much been starving herself since last Friday except for the bites she snatches off of the floor when baby Magnus drops them. I do feel like a mean person for not giving in but we once went the route of giving in when she tried the same and suddenly my dog was the biggest prima donna in the household, she refused or ate food purely based on her mood every day. This is food I used to be able to use as treats and am trying to finish as we are changing to another brand.

I admit I often sneak her tastier treats but we had a good rule going on, no treats unless she had eaten her dog food. It worked for the past year but the week away wrecked our nice agreement.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Biking and Tracking

A week into November and me and Bella have already covered 18 km so far. A good start to our 50 km goal!

My fiancé overslept this morning so instead of him taking baby Magnus to daycare we split up and I biked him to destination. Bella was pulling the trailer like a husky, she's amazing.

Bella in the Morning

I took her with me again when I returned to pick Magnus up and my fiancé was with me this time around. We're giving alternate routes a go, in the morning run I found out just how much traffic there is in the area. I did consider leaving Bella at home but she had planted herself in front of the front door so how could I? She ran like a champ although we did go a lot slower on the way back, she was running low on gas!

We were both feeling pretty cozy after that and thinking nice thoughts of the sofa when I remembered I had made an appointment after noon. Yes all the biking had happened before noon, 8 km in one day. I scheduled meeting my cousin because she was going to teach me how to track with Bella. She has two dogs and has trained them both for tracking, she has done considerable search and rescue training with them.

I really enjoyed this, even if there was a storm approaching and pouring down rain. We laid in total three short sausage laden tracks for Bella and I really enjoyed seeing her improve with each one. I have spent a long time wondering how to teach a dog to track and now I am starting to understand.

Seeing the trained dogs work was interesting as well, for the younger bitch she laid a track for her to follow and with the older one she asked me to head to the trees nearby and lie down. What amazed me was that she explained pretty much how the dog would go before finding me. She looked like such a pro, she ran downwind and when she caught a whiff of me she ran almost straight towards me and when she saw me, ran off to let my cousin know and together they came back.

Seeing people work their dogs is not a common thing but it is actually one of my favorite type of dog-watching. I like beautiful dogs but more than that I enjoy seeing a dog in the 'workzone'. A dog who is happy as a clam having a job to do.

I wanted to take my camera with me but because of the awful weather I didn't want to risk it. Thus, I only have camera phones of Bella! Maybe next time.

Bella Waiting to Track

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birthday and My Monthly Goals

Today's my birthday. As I get older the less faff I want to surround this yearly event. Yet there is always this childlike feeling when my birthday approaches. It is nice to be remembered, just as it is to be forgotten. Thanks to Facebook, those who do forget tend to get lost in the flood of those reminded. I cherish the calls and texts most.

I took Bella and baby out for a walk. It's my shift break so I like to use the few hours of daylight available. Unfortunately Iceland has reached the time of year where normal daytime work means people go to work when it's dark and come home when it's dark, missing out on the only hours of daylight. Exercise in daylight is so much more invigorating.

The walk was refreshing, we managed 2.7 km which is a nice start to reaching our November goal. In October I aimed for 30 km tracked (final count: 32.27 km) and with the bikes in action again I've upped the goal for 50 km in November. That's only 1.7 km per day, nothing extraordinary when I set it up like this.

I can't stop appreciating how far I've come. I took the ability to exercise for granted before my pregnancy and now I have a whole new outlook on how important it is to keep physically fit and enjoy the time spent outdoors. Biking to work, running an agility course with the dog, walking in a snowstorm... I still feel some aching now and then but it's stopped disabling me from doing most of the things I love and enjoy.